We’ve been to meet Sky this week. On the agenda were the new voice control enhancements to Sky Q, but we also heard (and fondled) the Devialet-backed Soundbox from Sky which will debut this November (we’re hoping to have one to review sooner than that, though). The tie-up was certainly interesting when we first heard of it, since Devialet has a good pedigree in sound, but the French company is hardly a household name unlike Sky.
We’re seeing a lot more one-box TV sound solutions at the moment as our demand for ever-more compact gadgetry meets the wish for better living room sound.
It’s worth noting that this box has no short of three different price points. Existing Sky customers will pay £299, but you can lop an extra £50 off that if you have multiroom.
Sky says it doesn’t plan to offer it on a pay monthly basis at present, but we reckon that could be a good idea to get people signed up for the Soundbox.
The bad news is that the Sky-free price point is £799. Now, it’s pretty steep for that we think but, as you’ll hear, it represents a decent investment for £299/£249 and puts it in a very favourable position compared to, say, the Sonos Playbase.
The 4kg Soundbox features an HDMI input and output and optical input. The box also features Dolby Digital support in addition to Bluetooth 4.1 for streaming from smart devices (AirPlay is supported by the Sky Q box itself). Note that the Soundbox doesn't support Dolby Atmos which Sky Q itself does.
This isn't a massive issue as the Sky Soundbox isn't aimed at customers who want an Atmos setup, but if you were to consider buying the Soundbox at the unsubsidised price of £799 then it should be said that is getting towards the price you'd pay for an Atmos soundbar.
The remote is like a mini-me of the Sky Q remote, though you can naturally use your Sky Q remote to control the Soundbox. Devialet has developed some specific sound modes for the Soundbox which you can enable from the Sky Q menu – just click the ? at the bottom of the Sky Q remote.
The sport mode, for example, is designed to highlight the background noise ‘of being there’ for different sports and we were shown how it – very clearly - enhanced the Old Trafford crowd noise as well as the F1 car noise at the start of the Italian Grand Prix; both without compromising the audibility of the commentary.
Just a quick note about positioning; the box uses the walls in your home to bounce the sound from, giving the impression of a multi-speaker surround sound system. Note that the box itself is 9.5cm high. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it might cause an issue if your TV doesn't have a stand that raises it up above that. As you can see from the photo at the bottom of this article, Sky raised up the LG TV it was using to demonstrate the Soundbox using a plinth.
There are also three 2-inch full-range drivers directed towards the front and sides of the box in addition to six 3-inch woofers. And the sound is powerful; we were shown several demos which were obviously designed to show us the Soundbox at its best but netherless impressed.
In terms of movies, we’re often played Mad Max at demos and the Soundbox did well for this as well as for a clip from Fantastic Beasts with plenty of animal noise. Reproduction is absolutely crystal clear.
We also were played some Beyonce designed to demonstrate the bass and it did excellently here, too. Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t compare with high-end speakers, but as we say for £299 it’s hard not to recommend it.
Also to demonstrate its prowess with dialogue, the Sky and Devialet representatives played us Skyfall’s MI6 sequence, complete with the type of dialogue that often gets lost in the mix – using the Q Sound mode the dialogue was immediately clearer over playing the same sound from the TV.
A gunshot that had seemed unfathomably loud when we were played it from TV was dialled down the mix through the Soundbox (although not so much that it seemed quiet). It was all a lot more balanced.
We’re certainly looking forward to writing our full Sky Soundbox review soon.
An interesting footnote; Sky showed us the packaging for the Soundbox which is entirely recyclable – there’s no single-use plastic used.
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Sky Soundbox specs
HDMI input & output (cable included)
Optical input (cable included)
Compatible with Dolby Digital+
35 Hz – 22 kHz
Real-time speaker management
Automatic listening modes exclusively available with Sky Q
6 x 3-inch woofers in dual push-push configuration
3 x 2-inch full range drivers in 120° configuration
37.5 cm x 21 cm x 9.5 cm